Text description provided by the architects. Folie Divine is the first of two ‘folies’ planned by the City of Montpellier on its brownfield sites, as a continuation of a history dating back to the eighteenth century, when local aristocrats and the bourgeoise commissioned architects to build spectacular grand mansions in garden settings, such as the castles of Flaugergues, de la Mogère and de la Mosson. However in French and English gardens, the idea of Folie has a longer history in which a playful structure with no practical purpose would be placed within a garden or landscape to elicit pleasure, luxury and wealth. As an idea, the Folie therefore plays with this leap beyond mere practicality.
FMA’s proposal for Folie Divine is based upon the understanding that the City of Montpellier, by setting the Folie as the brief for a residential building, was asking how the Folie’s playful character could be used as a critical tool to generate a new possibility for the architecture of housing.
The site is located on Îlot M2 within Les Jardins de la Lironde- an urban development area on Montpellier’s periphery, master-planned by Christian de Portzamparc. To the west, it borders a river and residential neighbourhoods to its north, east and west.
The site therefore enjoys tranquillity as well as a pleasant Mediterranean climate.
Architecture: Luxury as choice
The architecture of Folie Divine defies the typical notion of residential luxury as synonymous with the use of expensive materials. Instead, it redefines luxury in three ways: a variety of spatial choices beyond bedroom count to compliment one’s unique lifestyle, the flexibility to modify one’s home as and when required, and finally the freedom to enjoy both interior and exterior spaces of the home in utmost privacy.
The initial brief requested five different apartment types. Folie Divine, through its unique assembly of floor plates, balconies and structure, provides its residents with 36 apartment types.
Massing: Environmental sustainability
The building is designed as a 9-storey tower (the maximum height permitted by the masterplan for the area)in order to achieve a compact footprint and provide the apartments with views of the sea as well as the city centre in the distance. Its compact footprint also allows the rest of the site to be used for a garden, giving the building a Folie like setting and creating corner apartments which benefit from two aspects and cross natural ventilation. The massing of the building therefore increases sustainability through reduced land occupation.
Balconies: Privacy, Indoor-Outdoor living, Choice, Environmental sustainability
To enable indoor-outdoor living, all apartments are designed with curvilinear balconies that taper at each end to obviate the need for balcony dividing walls between neighbours, which typically obstruct lateral views out of balconies. To avoid overlapping views between neighbours, the curvilinear balconies are strategically located with respect to one another, so that each balcony enjoys 180 degree views out but never into the neighbouring balcony.
In addition, four different floor configurations are used, each with differing balcony locations stacked in alternating order to ensure that neighbouring balconies are two levels apart from each other. This minimises downward views from one neighbour to another and creates the choice of two balcony types throughout the building: a single height balcony, shaded by the level above and designed with exterior curtains for additional privacy and wind protection, and, a double height balcony which benefits from maximum sun exposure and provides the possibility of maintaining taller house plants.
To reinforce privacy in the balconies, the handrails are designed with double points of support, arranged along two parallel lines and offset from one another. The double points of support, compared to a single support at double the width, provides the views out of the balconies with greater transparency and minimizes views in from the exterior, as the double points of support generate a moiré like pattern when viewed at an oblique. The unusual degree of privacy and choice created by the shape and location of balconies, as well as their moiré handrails and exterior curtains, will promote indoor-outdoor living. Since the balconies are almost as private as interior spaces, they can be used as an extension of them. For instance, a resident has requested his balcony structure to be reinforced to install a jacuzzi.
Structure and Building Materiality: User Empowerment
To provide residents with the option of apartment subdivision following their unique lifestyles, the structure of the building is located along the vertical core, the façade and the party wall between neighbouring apartments. The apartments are therefore free of a load-bearing structure and empower residents to reconfigure their interiors at their own pace as and when their requirements change. Initial owners have already customised their internal wall placements, and each apartment has consequently acquired a unique layout. Two apartments were also purchased by one family and combined into a single home.
To minimise the need for building maintenance over time and the associated costs that could burden residents, the building envelope is clad in corrugated anodized aluminium metal panelling and glass, whilst hardwood flooring is used for the balconies.